Tag Archives: PastPerfect

Museum 101: “A” is (still) for Accession

Way, way back at the beginning of this blog, we covered the process of accessioning, or bringing objects into the museum’s collection. Recently, while doing some research for ongoing accessioning here at the museum, we came across our humble little blog post on the second page of a Google search for “museum accession.” This shows us two things: 1. That we’re awesome, and 2. That museums do a poor job talking about how museums function. To this end, we’ve decided to revisit the accessioning because the task is never done.

We’re always accessioning things here at the Campbell House, whether they are objects returned to the house (as with these goblets that were the subject of our first post about accessioning) or they are objects related to our mission, such as the items from our recent Lucas Place exhibit. Sometimes, we also find that we have objects in our collection that, for one reason or another, we overlooked. That’s what we did recently with our lamp globes.

Gravity+Globe=Bad News

Gravity+Globe=Bad News. This globe was broken more than 25 years ago. 

Why were the globes never accessioned? Well, it’s probably because the lamps and gasoliers were. We simply assumed that would suffice. However, as we noted with the chimney pots, objects within the museum tend to move around a lot. Glass and gravity do not play well together either, with the result that they sometimes break. Since the globes can move around separately (and have), and since many of them are the Campbell’s originals and quite valuable in their own right, we’ve chosen to start accessioning each and every one (there are more than 100!).

To accession a globe, first we need to assign it an accession number. This number has three elements: first the year (2015), then the month (12), then a sequential number based on how many objects we’ve already accessioned that month (say, 3). That makes this globe 2015.12.3. This number has to be written on the object, or we could lose track of it. However, we can’t just write on the globe with a Sharpie, because they don’t make a museum-quality pen. We also have to protect the globe.

First, we dab on a layer of a durable, non-yellowing and quite smelly resin called B-72. After half an hour of drying, we can use a special acid-free archival pen to write the number down (chicken scratch handwriting is helpful), then we cover it with another layer of B-72.

Now we need to plug the object into our database. We use a program called PastPerfect, which is, well, perfect for small museums. PastPerfect lets us keep track of our objects, and provides an organized (and searchable!) way to write down everything we know about the object. We can describe its physical attributes, it size, its condition, where it came from, its history, who gave it to us, how much it cost, and so on. We also take a photo of the object, mark down its location, and backup all our data, because we really don’t want to have to do all this again. PastPerfect also puts this information online for us, which is what you see when you search the collections.

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Accessioning an object can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on how important the object is, how much we know about it, and if we need to let two layers of B-72 dry. Once we’ve done this and put the object into the museum, we’re all done! Except for the cleaning, the rearranging, the annual “eyeball” inventory,  the donation forms…

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Meet the Interns » Rachel

Intern Rachel! Click her image to learn more about internships at the Campbell House Museum.

Intern Rachel! Click her image to learn more about internships at the Campbell House Museum.

Meet Rachel – CHM’s third summer intern.  She’s originally from St. Louis, but this summer Rachel came all the way from RIT in Rochester, New York to spend a couple months with us (which we think is pretty snazzy) and has been doing some great work with our collection!

What are you studying and where?  I’m studying Museum Studies and Hospitality Management and Tourism (try saying that three times fast!) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York.

Why Campbell House?  I thought it would be an interesting place to work and learn about the history of the Campbells.  Even though CHM is small, it has a lot of treasures worth seeing!

What are you working on at CHM?  I’m working on the annual collections inventory – I go through every room armed with a laptop and three notepads to ensure that the inventory is up to date.  I account for every object in CHM’s collection.

When you aren’t having a blast at Campbell House, what are you doing?  Video games, reading, mulling about characters from TV shows (I just started watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix!)

What is your favorite thing about CHM thus far?  Seeing the objects up close in person – it’s interesting how some objects have different physical appearances from the 1800s compared to the ones in this century.

One of the THOUSANDS of objects Rachel has inventoried this summer. The inventory is no small task - everything from the smallest spoons to the largest pieces of furniture have to be accounted for and their collections files have to be updated to reflect new locations, additions, and conditions.

One of the THOUSANDS of objects Rachel has inventoried this summer. The inventory is no small task – everything from the smallest spoons to the largest pieces of furniture have to be accounted for and their collections files have to be updated to reflect new locations, additions, and conditions.

iPhone or Android?  Android.

Favorite color?  Purple.

Favorite band?  The Beatles.

Little know fact about yourself?  I can wiggle my ears!

Which of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs describes you best and why?  Happy describes me best because I’m an optimistic person.  I like to make people happy even if it’s just listening to them rant about things.

Want to check out some of the fun stuff Rachel has been working with this Summer?  The Campbell collection is fully accessible online!  Click here to access object files and get the dirt on your favorite Campbell goodies.

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New online collection database

You can see all my stuff on the interwebs now.

Just like your house, our house is filled with lots of stuff. We have furniture, letters, paintings, chamber pots and thousands of other random household objects.  (Sound familiar? Except for the chamber pots, of course.)  To keep everything in order, we have a software package that inventories all of the objects and documents in the Museum. After months of work and a generous grant from the Employee Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis, our collections are now online and accessible by all.

Here’s the link: http://campbellhouse.pastperfect-online.com/34842cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks

Links from our Home page and Research page will be up shortly.

The will of Robert's brother, Hugh Campbell.

What does this sort of access mean to you? Loads. Say you’re doing research on Ireland, click on “Keyword Search” and the system will find everything we have on Ireland. For this search, we have 99 letters, 5 photos and two person records. Many of the letters have images attached so you can see the original document, like the one to the left.

You can call up records by subject, name, artist, city of origin, etc. Don’t know what a lithophane is? Find out here.

Need a first-person account of the fur trade? The early days of St. Louis? Irish immigration? Love letters? The Civil War? It’s all right here.

Explore the site, and we hope you like (and can use) what you see.

 

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